“Diane, when did you get so cynical?”
I hadn’t intended to write about this spin-off from The Good Wife but its opening two episodes were just too full of insane goodness impossible to ignore – I mean just look at that poster art for one. The earlier seasons of The Good Wife were fantastic, US network television close to its best, but the show definitely lost some of its sparkle as its core ensemble collapsed and none of the replacement cast members were able to deal with the unchecked gravitational vortex of its key star Julianna Margulies as Saint Alicia Florrick.
Two victims of this were Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart, in there from the beginning and much abused by the end, and Cush Jumbo’s Lucca Quinn whose arrival in the seventh and final season promised much but ultimately suffered from writing that would not, could not, allow her independence from Florrick. So it is tempting to see The Good Fight as an apologia from series creators Robert King and Michelle King as, along with Rose Leslie’s newcomer Maia Rindell, they form the three leads of a brand new ensemble show that is serving up life!
The Good Fight picks up one year after the end of The Good Wife and Diane is all set to retire to Provence, her decision influenced by the opening scene where she watches slack-jawed as Donald Trump is inaugurated. Only trouble is, her fortune is tied up with good friend and financial adviser Henry Rindell who has just been arrested for running a Ponzi scheme which has fleeced half of Chicago society. So having given her notice into Lockhart, Decker, Gussman, Lee, Lyman, Gilbert-Lurie, Kagan, Tannebaum, & Associates (one of several Good Wife in-jokes), she’s forced to look elsewhere to drag herself out of potential bankruptcy.
That someplace else proves to be Lucca’s new firm, Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad, where Diane soon gets her foot in the door, bringing along with her god-daughter Maia, a lawyer at the very beginning of her career in a city where her name is now reviled (she’s Henry’s daughter). And from there, we look set to investigate all sorts of interesting subjects – Reddick et al is a black-led firm, which should allow us to explore race in real depth, something The Good Wife rarely managed to do, Diane’s white privilege already being checked more than once here and the brutal reality of day-to-day racism acknowledged in a quiet but telling scene.
Leslie’s Maia is an out-and-proud lesbian, which is no mean feat for a US TV series lead, with a girlfriend who is an assistant state’s attorney so we must be getting to see more of her. Jumbo’s Lucca is already showing signs of magnificence now the character is being allowed to flourish, fierce yet compassionate, it’s no less than this glorious actor deserves. And in her sixties, Baranski puts the lie to what so many TV executives would have you believe – with statement necklaces that burst from the screen, an extraordinary passion that is no less explosive in her acting, and a delicious way with a swear-word, any show in the world would be lucky to be lead by this kind of talent.
Fans of The Good Wife won’t be disappointed with all sorts of nods to the parent series – a facecheck for Will Gardner, Judge Abernathy reappearing, Marissa Gold’s wangling her way into employment as Diane’s new secretary, and more familiar faces to come in future episodes. But the real beauty of The Good Fight (so far) is that it is managing to balance all of its components into a real ensemble piece, dipping in and out of multiple story strands starting up with real skill – Erica Tazel’s Kolstad, sceptical of Diane from the off, looks set to be a powerful presence, and the overarching story of the financial scandal looks even more intriguing now that Bernadette Peters looks like she might be a villain, what more could you want from life?!